— Jon Bergmann —
The year was 1987 and I was afraid. I spent four years preparing for this day, yet in many ways, it was a lifetime. Students were about to walk into Baker Middle School and I hoped I was ready. Had I created an inviting place for students to learn? Was I going to be able to control unruly students? Would my students like me? How would I handle students who came from a different culture? Would I? Could I? These and many more questions buzzed in my head as students walked into my first class.
Years later I realized my students also had questions. Who is the new teacher? Is he mean? Is he nice? Will he give us too much homework? Will class be fun? And no doubt they were also asking things like, “Does the boy sitting next to me like me? Who will sit with me at lunch? Will I be able to find my locker?” And sadly, some were asking things like, will my father stop hitting my mom, when will I get my next meal, and will I be able to graduate from school?
And so began my teaching career. I stood up and “taught” my students. I cared passionately about their success and devoted myself to them. I came in early and stayed late. I went to their sporting events and set up afterschool basketball games every Tuesday to keep them off the streets and out of gangs. You see, I was a teacher and I wanted to make a difference. And I did.
My career spanned 32 years. Twenty-four years in the classroom, two years as technology director, and seven years traveling the globe sharing about Flipped Learning. My career has not been like many of my colleagues. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Looking back, I see how the diversity of what I have been a part of has shaped me.
My first stint was at an inner-city middle school with amazing students. I then taught at a blue-collar high school with students whose work ethic amazed me. Then off to the suburbs where I worked for 15 years helping to open up a brand new school. Then a stint in the mountains of Colorado at a rural high school where Flipped Learning got its start. Then technology director in an affluent suburb of Chicago. Then I left “teaching” and had the crazy opportunity to travel the world working with teachers, schools, and even governments helping them implement Flipped Learning worldwide.
I will be going full circle. I am returning to the daily work of teaching.
You might ask: why?
Frankly, it comes from a question many of you have asked me over the years, “Would you ever return to the classroom?”
And every time, I have replied, “Yes, I could see myself teaching again.” For years I have heard the stories of the impact you are making in the lives of your students and I have felt a tug back to teaching. It was highlighted when I was having dinner with Tom Mennella, Terra Graves, and Peter Santoro at the Future of Educational Technology Conference. As they shared their stories, I was deeply moved. I realized that I miss the interactions they have every day with students.
This February, my wife and I took a two-week retreat with no email contact, and spent some time intentionally looking at our life vision both individually, and as a couple. As I hiked the nearby trails thinking, praying and reflecting, my life vision to “Reach Every Student” became crystal clear. Not just as a speaker, author, coach, and workshop leader, but on a more individual basis. These past few years I have been reaching teachers so that they can reach students. I have missed reaching students directly.
So, I am rolling up my sleeves and I will be flipping again. I will be teaching Physics and Earth Science at Houston Christian High School. I am looking forward to practicing what I have been preaching these past 7 years while I have been on the road, and implementing many of the strategies I have learned from you all. I look forward to implementing the Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning both in my classes and also while helping teachers.
And as I sit here in my new home in Houston, I am gearing up for my first day. I have set up my room for engagement. I have made my introductory videos that hopefully will inspire, I have planned what I think are engaging learning activities, and I have set up my new D2L Brightspace LMS. I’m ready for mastery learning right?
On the eve of school starting, I find myself asking the questions I did 32 years ago. Will my students like me? Do I still have what it takes? Will I be able to reach every student? How will I juggle teaching students and my ongoing work with FLGI, teaching Flipped Learning around the world? And then I remember that each of my students is also asking similar questions. Will I fit in? What’s up with the new teacher? Can I? Will I?
So this month I’m starting a new column here on Flipped Learning Review to share with you my travails and triumphs as I come full circle — back to the heart of what it means to be a teacher. I hope you’ll join me.